Kim Watch: The G20 and bad karma

Fireworks display at September G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China
Sept. 4, 2016: Fireworks at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China were promptly answered by an even more spectacular explosion in North Korea (source: dpa)

The G20 held its September 4-5 summit in one of China’s most beautiful cities, Hangzhou.

To put its best foot forward, the Chinese government spent 140 billion yuan ($21 billion) on hospitality for the event. Hangzhou families were paid the equivalent of $1,500 each to vacate their homes for a brief holiday while the G20 meeting was going on.

According to Chinese media reports, world leaders left the summit happy and full of praise for Hangzhou’s tranquility and serenity – nothing at all like a city of nine million.

With these kind words still ringing in Chinese ears, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un conducted another nuclear test on September 9. The underground explosion was quite close to the Chinese border, sending the local population into a panic.

What a killjoy, Mr. Kim! Perhaps by coincidence, September 9 is also the 40th anniversary of Chairman Mao Zedong’s death. No one in China can tell whether the nuclear test expressed Mr. Kim’s anger at not getting invited to the G20 meeting, or was intended as symbolic revenge for Mao’s failure to conquer South Korea more than 60 years ago.

Whatever the answer, Beijing was not shy about voicing its displeasure with North Korea’s fifth nuclear test. The Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement that China was “dead set against” such activity.

UN resolutions won't mean a thing without Chinese commitment

This time, the announcement did not repeat the old chestnut about “calling on all the parties to maintain calm and restraint.” Instead, North Korea was urged “to comply with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” while China pledged to work with the international community to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

China voted in March 2016 in favor of UN Resolution 2270, which imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea for ignoring nuclear nonproliferation. But Beijing also insisted on a “livelihood” exemption that allowed most of its goods trade with Pyongyang to continue, including Chinese imports of North Korean coal.

After all, China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade volume. The UN can resolve whatever it likes, but it won’t mean a thing without Chinese commitment.

Kim Jong-un understands this quite well. No one can stop him for attacking the rest of civilization as long as China keeps delivering his “livelihood.”

Good Buddhists

Like most Buddhists, Chinese and Koreans believe in karma. This is hardly surprising, since Buddhism has been practiced in these two countries for more than a thousand years.

Perhaps it is just superstition, but two days after the “successful nuclear test,” North Korea was struck by torrential rains and some of the worst floods ever in the northern part of the country. Hundreds of people died or went missing, and thousands of buildings were destroyed.

The government in Pyongyang described it as “the biggest natural disaster since World War II,” while the Foreign Ministry appealed to nine countries for help – but pointedly excluded China.

When a state wastes resources to feed a supreme leader’s ego, ordinary people are doomed.

In Kim Watch, GIS Expert Kati Kang shares her insights into the policies of Kim Jong-un. For more, click here.

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